The arts are more engaging than I ever could have imagined at Northwestern. When you first arrive on campus, for instance, you’ll see posters for all of the Wirtz mainstage productions. You may marvel at how to get involved in these professional, fully-produced plays and musicals (or at least I did!). The worst-kept secret on this campus, however, is that there is no limit to how much theatre you can participate in whether or not you are a theatre major. Some classes may require that you work on a mainstage; others may ask for practical experience for you to draw upon. Where I found the pedal truly hits the metal in student art is in student-led theatre.
One of the many acronyms you’ll learn on this campus is StuCo. Many productions are lumped into this term, which in its simplest definition stands for “Student Theatre Coalition.” It has come to mean so much more than that in my short time here. I first worked on a StuCo show with “Jasper in Deadland,” a behemoth rock-opera retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. As a designer on that process, there were countless hours spent researching the correct methods of working in Northwestern spaces, days spent pouring over the script to find where the right lighting transitions would fit. What was unique to that experience was that, even when I was working by myself in the library, I knew that I was never alone. That was my impression of this mystical artistic scene from day one: there are infinite hands and people who are there to help facilitate your work (as long as you do so in return!).
The true grit of student theatre comes from this support structure. It isn’t simply a matter of “we’re putting on this show, here’s your job, go.” The tried and true method of production is through the theatre boards. I was unfamiliar with the concept before experiencing Northwestern theatre in its entirety, but I can’t imagine my life today without them. There are over a dozen boards groups scattered around campus, and each board exists to produce art – theatrical, dance, or performance – that furthers their mission statement. Whether it’s theatre for young audiences through the Purple Crayon Players, feminist art through Lipstick, sensory-friendly work at Seesaw, or so much more, there is no shortage of opportunities to find shows that resonate with you and your interests.
“Jasper in Deadland” was produced by Lovers & Madmen, a board devoted to staging classic and classically-inspired work on a contemporary level. I was never quite able to shake the elation I felt when arriving in the space that dreaded load-in day (with thousands of pounds of lighting equipment) and seeing the board there ready to step in and take some of the burden. I was left with an intense respect for those students, and when the time came, I was lucky enough to become one of them. As an artist and classics nerd, I found a group of artists and classics nerds to make incredible things with. More importantly, however, I found another home at Northwestern.